Eating alone while traveling: 7 tips to make it a pleasure
Eating alone while traveling is often experienced as a discomfort. So here are some tips to make it a pleasure.
One of the biggest worries of solo travelers is dealing with meal times.
Often, we see ourselves at the center of attention and above all at the center of observations as “Poor guy/girl, alone, what happened?” or “Who knows what he/she does, where he/she goes, why, …” and a thousand of other questions.
The worst thing is the feeling of being constantly observed, especially women, often also the object of advances, because, you know, “she is alone, she will surely want company”: -S.
This idea we have of how others see us is the right way to feel uncomfortable.
When I started traveling solo, I felt it so many times, so much so that I preferred horrible sandwiches consumed on the bed in my hotel room.
But now, a little at a time I let the discomfort go through, using some techniques that I want to share with you so that you too can travel solo enjoying this experience completely.
Here are my tips for eating with pleasure on your own while traveling:
1) Smile and ignore others
Imagine the scene: you enter a restaurant, cross the hall to reach your table and you begin to feel every eye on you. You seem to hear some comments too. The discomfort begins to rise …
It’s time to show off all your charm: turn to the person you think is staring at you, look into his/her eyes, smile and walk straight to your table.
90% will have already looked away in fear as soon as you start turning your head in his/her direction.
Your attitude of absolute ease is destabilizing for those who can’t wait to find a horrible reason for your loneliness.
I’m actually pretty sure that people enjoying a great local dish have no interest in you and, apart from a moment of distraction as soon as you walk past them, they won’t spend any more time on you.
After all, think about this: if you were in their shoes, how would you behave towards someone who enters the restaurant and sits alone?
So, sit quietly, ignore the outside world and immerse yourself in the menu to have a local culinary experience or to eat the best dish ever and enjoy it.
Also, you may have a tendency to order something quick, so as not to be in the club too much.
Instead, I recommend that you order what you like best, try more dishes and accompany them with an excellent glass of wine, or the local drink that most inspires you.
It will be an experience within the experience.
I remember a lunch in Sardinia. I was in the hinterland, so beautifully loaded plates, but I couldn’t resist. I had carefully selected the restaurant where to eat and had chosen this because of its reputation as one of the best in that tiny village. And in fact it did not disappoint me, but I got out of there with difficulty, with a great desire to take a nap 😉 But good, damn it was good!
2) Don’t let them put you in the corner
A generalized trend, at least in Italy, is to reserve tables relegated to people who eat alone in absurd places in the room and, sometimes, with their view turned to the wall.
I understand that one of the most embarrassing things when you are at the table alone is not knowing where to look, since we have no one in front of us, but not the wall please.
And not even a loser seat in the room.
If you see the waiter accompanying you to such a place, stop him and ask for a seat with a view.
Overlooking the street, where you can watch what happens outside, or overlooking the panorama.
In Lipari I took a small guided tour that ended with a swim in the sea. We got out of the water because it started raining and then I arrived at the restaurant completely soaked: -S
Fortunately, I had clothes change and in the meantime the sun came out but I had to dry my shoes. It was a decidedly informal environment and so I was able to do this:
I asked for the table right in front of the window that overlooked a small terrace (not set up for lunch due to the rain a little earlier). Fully open window, sea view. I took off my shoes and socks, put them out to dry and sat with my back to the room and gaze at that marvel view. I ate very well and relaxed.
3) Keep busy
A great way to avoid not knowing where to look is to read or write.
Write notes on your experiences of the day in the diary, arrange the photos you took, consult the guide for your next steps, read your book, …
4) Sit at the counter
Another way to feel less uncomfortable eating alone is to sit at the counter.
The counter is perfect because it does not provide an empty seat in front of you, it will lead the waiters to more easily exchange a few words with you and often a spontaneous chat with those who will sit next to you, which will surely be alone like you.
5) Befriend the waiter
A good approach could be to ask him for advice on what to eat, or what wine to pair with, or ask about places you are going to see.
In this way you will melt and at the same time you will make yourself less “alien” on his eyes, therefore more predisposed towards you. You will also have a friend in the room, who will look at you because he knows you and whom you can look at if necessary.
6) Choose places with other people alone
If the place inspires you and you manage to peek inside and see that there are other people sitting alone, that’s it. Come in and take a seat. Most likely they will make you sit at a nearby table and maybe you will have the opportunity to meet someone.
7) Pretend to be a food blogger
It happened to me in Sicily, actually unintentionally, but it helped to alleviate my discomfort.
It was one of the first times that I was traveling alone and therefore that I ate alone and I had brought a notebook to write down notes and information about my trip.
When my magnificent plate of red prawns arrived I photographed it immediately and once finished, so as not to feel embarrassed, I started writing in my notebook. When I saw that some people looked at me and made comments I imagined that they thought that I was a food blogger, or even a food critic 😀
From that moment, after each course, I photographed and wrote, nothing to do with the dishes, but I wrote.
It was a lot of fun 😀
In reality, eating alone has many advantages that should not be underestimated.
We don’t have to show off smiles and have forced conversations; in silence we enjoy better what we are eating; we have the opportunity to observe the environment around us and better understand the uses and customs of the place; we relax a lot more and therefore we rest better.
I remember an almost weird experience in Lanzarote a few years ago.
I went there with the express intention of seeing as much as possible and I booked in a village instead of the other types of accommodation that I usually prefer, because it was very competitively priced. I also had half board, which was convenient because I wasn’t in a place with a particularly active nightlife.
The fact is that a couple of gentlemen took courage and asked me why I was alone and why they never saw me in the pool. I told them that it was absolutely normal for me to travel alone, that the sea was very beautiful and that I preferred to spend the days discovering the wonders of this island rather than in the pool.
The end of the story is that, partly because I had convinced them that there were interesting things to see and partly because they couldn’t believe that I was perfectly fine alone, they joined me on my exploratory tours for the rest of the journey, so goodbye peace 😊
As you will have understood, for me now traveling alone is a real pleasure, although I also like to travel in a group or with friends.
But I understand that the first few times is difficult.
If you really can’t do it or it’s one of the first times you can do this:
1) Try to get to know someone during the trip or during the visit of a place and propose to have lunch or dinner together. They are probably in the same situation as you and will gladly accept.
It happened to me in Chile. I walked into a bar to have a fruit smoothy and I was undecided, as well as struggling with the translation of the names of the fruits. A girl came to my aid ‘cause she understood that I was Italian like her. We chatted, I liked her, so I asked her if she wanted to have dinner with me. Said and done, in the evening we enjoyed a nice meal and we tasted each other dishes.
In Chile, it happened as well that I travelled for a part of the trip with a person I met there. We met during a guided tour to see the colorful lakes and discovered that a few days later we would both be on Easter Island for a few days, so we met there and visited this beautiful island together, lunches and dinners included 😉
2) Another method to avoid the restaurant or the bar is to cook something in the hostel or apartment. I did it several times, also because on a long journey always eating out becomes “challenging”.
3) One of the best solutions, even if a little uncomfortable, is to eat on the street. Street food has existed for centuries, especially in Asian countries and in the Middle East. Stop where it inspires you the most, choose the dish and eat it while walking down the street, or sitting at the table in front of it while savoring the atmosphere.
4) Last chance, but it is the saddest one, is to buy a sandwich, or a cold ready dish and eat it in your room.
As you can see, there are several strategies for overcoming the discomfort of eating alone and enjoying lunches and dinners in absolute peace and tranquillity while enjoying the atmosphere and the dishes you are tasting.
And you, what tricks do you use to overcome the discomfort of going to a restaurant alone? Tell us your experiences in the comments.
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